Rory McIlroy is set to miss the cut at the Irish Open after finishing one over par at halfway at Portstewart. The defending champion shot a one-over 73 to lie 14 shots behind clubhouse leaders Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert and four shots over the projected cut.
McIlroy's playing partner Jon Rahm is one off the lead on 12 under, with New Zealand's Ryan Fox 11 under after a 66.
This will be the fourth time in five years that tournament host McIlroy has missed the cut at his home tournament. The world number four shot a disappointing level-par round in benign conditions on Thursday and needed a bright start to Friday's second round to reignite his hopes of making the last two days.
A bogey at his first hole of the day, the par-three 10th, saw McIlroy immediately drop a shot, before he posted three birdies and a second bogey on the remainder of his opening nine. In windy conditions, the Northern Irishman picked up a shot at the fourth hole but a bogey at the sixth and a double bogey at the eighth appeared to seal his fate.
"I felt like I was battling well, two under through 13, and with another par five coming up, and to bogey the sixth took the wind out of my sails," said McIlroy, who showed his frustration by slamming his driver to the ground after a poor drive at the 16th.
"My short game, in general, it's just silly mistakes," he said. "I'm just not being very efficient with my scoring and that's why I'm making it difficult for myself. Just need to tidy up the short game a little bit; I feel like the long game is there."
McIlroy will compete in next week's Scottish Open before heading down to Royal Birkdale for The Open Championship.
"Obviously, I might have a few commitments here this weekend, but I need to practice," he said. "I need to get sharp and get ready for next week and ultimately for The Open in a couple week's time."
Im and Hebert continue to set pace
First-round leaders, American Im and Hebert, from France, both followed up the impressive form they showed on day one by posting rounds of five-under-par 67 on Friday, the same score as Spaniard Rahm
Fox, the winner of last year's Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm Castle, is well-placed to challenge, along with Japanese pair Hideki Matsuyama and Hideto Tanihara, who are both nine under.
Tanihara recorded the lowest score of the second round so far with a 65.
Paul Dunne, former champion Soren Kjeldsen and Italy's Fabrizio Zanotti are in the clubhouse on eight under.